Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.
Joshua, Moses' successor, was facing a daunting task. He had just replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelites and had to lead his people into the promised land. Spies had checked out the area beforehand and had a discouraging report; the inhabitants were so tall the spies felt like grasshoppers, and the land had fortified cities like Jericho.
God kept telling Joshua to live in a godly way and be strong and courageous throughout his journey. Joshua and the Israelites successfully crossed the river Jordan with God’s help. They conquered the promised land, and you know what happened to the city of Jericho. The walls came a tumblin’ down.
In the same way, God expects us to encourage each other and spur each other on to good works (Hebrews 10:24). In church, we Christians often hear that we should not gossip, condemn others, or put them down. However, some Christians seem to be good at judging and criticizing others and not so good at saying the right words to lift others up.
Building Up Others Does Not Come Naturally
We do not often hear about the need for us to encourage each other in church. It does not come naturally to us to build others up. We should be mindful and look for opportunities to encourage others. Some people have a gift for uplifting others, but most of us have to work at it (Romans 12:8). The act of exhortation (strong encouragement) is a way of showing love to others and looking out for their best interests (Hebrews 10-19-25).
Our words have more power than we may think – the power of life and death (James 3:2-6). Our tongues can be wholesome and healing or as destructive as a fire. We need to be mindful of how the things we say impact others. A small spark can start a raging blaze that is hard to put out. On the other hand, our words can help people be glad (Proverbs 12:25) and restore their hope. The words of the righteous are like a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11).
Recognizing our Human Nature
As Christians, we understand that we are frail, weak, and prone to make mistakes. Sometimes we just need reassurance that we are doing the right thing. Even the most confident among us need to be encouraged now and then.
While working in various ministries, I have noticed that church leaders and members stop giving positive feedback after a while. Leaders assume that their teams know that they are doing a fine job. Unfortunately, some people may feel insecure in their roles and may even resent their leader for not acknowledging their best work.
Why People Are Reluctant to Encourage
Why are some people so reticent about building up other people? Here are some common reasons:
- They do not recognize when people need it
- They take for granted that the person who needs building up somehow magically knows that they are doing a good job without being told.
- They are concerned that uplifting words will make the person vain or proud
- They are jealous of the person and do not want to give them anything more than they have to
How To Be Encouraging
We are supposed to build each other up, but it is not natural for most of us to exhort others (1Thessalonians 5: 10-12). We are naturally selfish and clueless about how the people around us are feeling. Sometimes the need for a positive word is not apparent but is under the surface of what people are saying. We have to dig a little to see what they need. We need to reprogram our minds to focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, admirable, praiseworthy, or excellent and pass it on. Effort is needed to say words that lead to peace and mutual edification (Romans 14:9).
The Holy Spirit needs to retrain our brains to detect signs of discouragement that should be addressed. We must be able to recognize when someone requires exhortation that benefits them and meets their needs (Ephesians 4:29).
Sometimes, stirring up another person to love and good works requires careful thought and planning (Hebrews 10:24). When we say the right thing, our words are apples of gold in a silver setting (Proverbs 25:11). Our words could also keep someone from sinning when they are tempted to do something wrong.
Reasons To Encourage Others
It Reassures People
People occasionally need assurance that they are doing well to renew their motivation. They need feedback from time to time to have the confidence to continue what they are doing.
It Helps Them Make Decisions
People also face difficult choices at times and are unsure what to do. Lifting them up instead of giving advice reassures them that they are able the right decision and go in the right direction. Sharing our personal experiences and telling positive stories can also help them make the right decisions.
It Provides Comfort
There are times when people need comfort and to have someone recognize their abilities and affirm them. People can become fainthearted and discouraged. They may feel alone and overwhelmed by their circumstances. We should patiently encourage them (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Encouragement restores their hope and optimism for the future.
It Reaffirms Them in Their Faith
People, especially new Christians, need reassurance in their faith now and then. They may doubt that God understands their situation and hears their prayers (Psalm 10:17, Romans 15:4). We may be tempted to use clichés, but empty words are not helpful. It is good to quote scripture in some situations that will motivate discouraged people to seek consolation in the Bible. Christian gatherings and attending church can also help restore people who are struggling.
Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, including church leaders and pastors. They crave a word fitly spoken to left them up. We should not withhold praise from people who deserve it because doing so could breed discouragement and resentment in them. Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Exhorting others comes out of a place of love for them and helps to nurture our relationships.
When we love and serve one another, we are good stewards of God's grace (1 Peter 4:8-10). We should do this without grumbling and pick our words carefully. What we say should only build other people up and strengthen them (Ephesian 4:29). If we practice encouragement, we will also feel encouraged ourselves.
The Holy Bible, New International Version
© 2021 Carola Finch